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No criminal charges to be laid in L’Isle-Verte fire

Dec. 14, 2015, Riviere-du-Loup, Que. - No criminal charges will be laid in the fire that killed 32 people at a seniors' residence in Quebec nearly two years ago, the Crown announced Monday.

The decision came after provincial police submitted a report into the January 2014 tragedy in L'Isle-Verte, in eastern Quebec.

"In light of the expert and witness testimony that was heard and the evidence gathered by investigators, the DPCP (the Crown) is not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal act was ever committed – be it during the night of Jan. 23, or in the days, weeks and months that followed,'' Crown prosecutor Annie Landreville told a news conference in Riviere-du-Loup.

The cause of the blaze is still unknown, although it has been established it began in the kitchen before quickly spreading.

A report by coroner Cyrille Delage last February cited a lack of training and of emergency plans as some of the reasons so many people died.

The co-owner of the home rejected responsibility last April for the fatal blaze.

Roch Bernier said Delage unjustly targeted the managers and staff at the Residence du Havre, in particular night watchman Bruno Belanger.

The Quebec government announced after the report was released that it will be mandatory for all existing private seniors' homes to be equipped with automatic sprinklers.

The province said operators would be given a five-year grace period to retrofit their homes.

Under Quebec's old rules, sprinklers were only mandatory in seniors' residences where the occupants are not mobile.

Only part of the 17-year-old Residence du Havre contained sprinklers and many occupants needed wheelchairs or walkers to get around.

An expansion to the three-storey, 52-unit facility was built in 2002 and the sprinklers in the new part of the building triggered the alarm.

December 14, 2015 
By The Canadian Press

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